Alameda boasts a small-town feel while just being a hop or skip (or ferry or bridge, to be exact) from bigger Bay Area cities. With miles of beautiful coastline to roam, hill-free streets that are perfect for an all-ages bike ride, and an abundance of family-friendly venues, it’s a haven for residents and a welcome escape for visiting families. Here’s a guide to help you get started on your own Alameda adventure.
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One of this playground’s major charms is its proximity to other kid-friendly distractions—a duck pond with a wooden walking bridge, a grassy field practically made for freeze-tag, a dog park, and of course, the beach. Located beside a row of the island’s tallest palm trees, the playground features two play structures, a giant fish ladder, and a covered sandbox. Bring an extra change of clothes if you’ve got littles who love the water!
8th St. and Central Ave.
This local gem is nestled in the island’s historic Gold Coast neighborhood, surrounded by beautiful old homes. The entire play area is fenced in for your little one’s safety. In addition to romping on the two play structures complete with swing sets (one for small, one for big), kiddies love to wander to the adjacent grounds to climb a tree or take a spin on the classic merry-go-round.
1432 San Antonio Ave.
It’s fun to imagine Lincoln Park as it stood in the 1800s—a large estate complete with a mansion and sprawling gardens. Today, the park is a haven on hot days, when large trees provide shade over the larger of two play structures. There’s also a bocce court, rose garden, and outdoor exercise station with fitness equipment for mom and dad. There’s not a prettier place to play!
1450 High St.
This popular East Bay play space recently branched out with a location in Alameda’s South Shore Center, where ice cream at Loard’s or lunch at Panera is just a hop and a skip away. Pop by for drop-in play in the large room equipped with educational toys, or schedule your visit during one of the daily storytime, dance party, or parachute time programs that are included with admission.
2202 S. Shore Center
Combine dinner and family game night at this laid back Park Street eatery where board games line the back shelves. Sliders, baked macaroni and cheese, and comforting soups like butternut squash or split pea will satisfy the little ones’ palates while their grown-ups enjoy more sophisticated choices, from ahi tuna tartare tacos to fresh oysters. Come during happy hour for cheap drinks and to avoid the dinner rush.
1313 Park St.
A trip to Germany waits on the other side of the Park Street Bridge at this decades-old Alameda establishment. Toast to a family night out over a pitcher of Bitburger Pilsner while the kids enjoy Reibekuchen (potato pancakes served with housemade apple compote), Kasebrett mit Fruchten (European cheeses and seasonal fruits), or a variety of German entrees like stuffed cabbage rolls or grilled pork chops, conveniently available in half sizes.
2424 Lincoln Ave.
Did someone say beignets? The mere mention can make mouths water, and at Café Jolie, this delectable dish as well as a range of other French American specialties are prepared with local and sustainable ingredients. You’ll have to share your beignets with the kiddo, though, because the kids’ menu features faves like French toast and pancakes instead.
1500 Webster St.
It’s hard to go wrong with pizza, pasta, and veggies dipped in ranch dressing, all on the kids’ menu at Tomatina, where kids eat free on Thursdays. The main menu also features soups, salads, calzones, piadine, signature beverages, and desserts. Request a seat on the outdoor patio to enjoy your sangria al fresco while your mini sips on sparkling lemonade.
1338 Park St.
Blue Dot Café
Well known for being family-friendly, the Blue Dot has a comfy seating area just for kids, complete with a basket of books and toys. On weekends, live music often accompanies your meal. Kids’ menu choices include the likes of bowtie pasta with butter and parmesan or marinara served with animal crackers for lunch and cinnamon swirl toast for breakfast.
1910 Encinal Ave.
La Penca Azul
Many Alamedans still remember this Mexican restaurant by its original name—La Pinata. With a loyal patronage that spans decades, La Penca Azul promises a festive atmosphere for the whole family. Share your full-size orders with the kids, or order something from the kids’ menu, which always comes with a side of crayons.
1440 Park St.
Find a variety of healthy choices for your picky eaters under one roof, from California rolls and miso soup at Sushi King to fresh, organic take-away at Greens & Grains. The Marketplace is home to 10 local vendors that focus on handmade, artisan foods. While you’re there, you can pick up some groceries, too.
1650 Park St.
Photo: Le Petit Matisse
Le Petit Matisse
As Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist,” so gather your young Fridas, Van Goghs, and Renoirs and set them loose at Le Petit Matisse art studio. Sign them up for painting, sculpture, shapes and colors, or drop in-art and rest easy knowing all the art materials here are 100 percent natural, from the non-toxic paint to the beeswax blend crayons.
1405 Encinal Ave.
USS Hornet Museum
Your little one may have a toy ship at home, but wouldn’t it be fun to explore the real thing? In addition to a range of historical exhibits, this giant aircraft carrier hosts fun events like Living Ship Days, Flashlight Tours, and birthday parties.
707 W Hornet Ave.
Subpar Mini Golf
Escape the wind and the rain with a game of indoor miniature golf. Each of 18 holes takes you through a tour of famous Bay Area landmarks. Kids will also love the skeeball, air hockey, foosball, arcade, and six-lane slot car track.
1511 Park St.
Crab Cove and Crown Beach
Alameda is perhaps best known for its miles of uncrowded shoreline. At the end of Crown Beach, Crab Cove is perfect for the kids, with regular low tides that are great for exploring. The Crab Cove Visitor Center contains an aquarium, interactive nature exhibits, and weekly programs like fish feeding and beach exploration.
1252 McKay Ave.
Treasures line this famed toy store from floor to ceiling, where you’ll find all the classic games and characters you played with as a kid, as well as popular new additions for your playroom. The toy store also keeps a Toy Bucket List created by customers, so you will always find helpful recommendations on what to buy.
1410 Park St.
Alameda Point Antiques Faire
Each month, this one-of-a-kind antiques fair, the largest of its kind in Northern California, attracts hundreds of treasure seekers to the island to browse over 800 antique dealer booths. See what baubles or collectibles your kids will find. Children under 15 are admitted free. There are food vendors here, too, so you won’t leave hungry.
2900 Navy Way
Photo: Cookiebar Creamery
Sips & Sweets
This Alameda institution is the first on many a list when it comes to dessert. Made the old-fashioned way in batch freezers, the ice cream here lives up to its name of being “supercreamed.” Junior scoops and fresh-made waffle cones are available.
1349 Park St.
Feel Good Bakery
Kids love macarons for their rainbow of colors. At Feel Good Bakery in the Alameda Marketplace, there’s always a new macaron flavor to discover. Everything here is made from scratch, from the sourdough bread to the pizza.
1650 Park St.
Relatively new on the scene, Cookiebar saw a quick rise to fame as an Alameda favorite. Housemade ice cream in flavors like Fruity Pebbles, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Sea Salted Caramel come delivered in a manner that kids love: between two soft cookies.
1606 Webster St.
Julie’s Coffee & Tea Garden
The enchanting back garden at Julie’s is the perfect place to enjoy a cozy tea party, even if it’s just between you and your little one. The grilled cheese sandwich is a favorite with kids, paired with a lavender lemonade or ginger-lemon brew.
1223 Park St.
Froyo may never go out of style, and the choices for froyo in Alameda are many. Yogofina offers smaller cup sizes for kids, who love to pick among toppings like fruit, cereal, and gummy bears.
1335 Park St.
What’s your favorite spot in Alameda? Tell us in the comments below!